Sunday, November 21, 2004

I can't decide if I want to read Christopher Booker's Seven Basic Plots or stay far, far away. Adam Mars-Jones says the "hefty tome of cultural archaeology is peculiar, repetitive, near-barmy and occasionally rather good." He claims the best chapter is on Hamlet and Oedipus Rex, but that Booker never manages to explain what women are supposed to get out of reading stories:

"The proper function of female characters, after all, is to represent qualities which the hero can in due course absorb within himself. The whole process of self-integration has its grotesque side, since the hero, having matured by seeing beyond his own ego, is rewarded with the revelation that all the other people in the story were aspects of himself all along.

"If the ideal of an integrated personality was just that - an ideal - it would be harmless. But it seems to be an attainable goal: 'In anyone who has achieved personal maturity, we see how this combines strength of character and the capacity for ordered thinking with selfless feeling and the intuitive ability to see objectively and whole.' There are no pronouns on show here, but how could this mature person be female, when female qualities are supposed to irradiate masculine ones rather than stand alone?"

At any rate, the seven basic plots are Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy and Rebirth. The book is being published in the U.S. in late January as The Seven Basic Plots of Literature, and the author has already, um, helpfully supplied the first reviews of the book at Amazon.

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